Rescue crews battled thunderstorms, snow and sleet Saturday afternoon to locate an injured backpacker and his companion in the Santa Barbara County backcountry, and bring them to safety, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff’s Search & Rescue personnel responded at about 12:30 p.m. to an electronic emergency distress signal near Big Pine Mountain in the Dick Smith Wilderness area of Los Padres National Forest, said Lt. Butch Arnoldi.
The backpackers, from the Los Angeles area, were completing a three-day trek when one of them suffered a lower-leg injury near the Dutchman Campground, Arnoldi said.
“Experiencing heavy rain and snow, the backpackers elected to activate a Personal Locating Beacon (PLB) they were carrying,” Arnoldi said. “A satellite picked up their distressed signal, and relayed it to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, which in turned contacted the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Emergency Communications Center.”
Four Search & Rescue crew members were flown by the county’s Copter 3 through stormy conditions, and were able to locate the backpackers.
The helicopter had to land about a half-mile from their location, forcing rescue personnel to slog through mud and snow to reach them, Arnoldi said.
The backpackers were assisted to the helicopter, and were flown to Santa Ynez Airport, where they were examined by paramedics and released, Arnoldi said.